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Villa boss O'Neill delighted as Downing makes his debut

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill finally saw his £12million summer investment, Stewart Downing, make his club debut. The former Middlesbrough player came on in the 70th minute of the 1-1 draw at Burnley, his first match since breaking a bone in his foot last May.

O'Neill accepts there is a long way to go until the 25-year-old rediscovers the form which made him a regular in the England squad.

"Just to get on the field of play is a very positive sign for him," said the Villa manager.

"It might still be a bit too early as, in terms of proper fitness, it will be hard for him at the moment because of the amount of football he has not played.

"I'll be the first to tell you he is not entirely fit but he has been desperate to be involved with us.

"He will benefit from that [run out] and he can only improve from there.

"He's a very decent player, he's played a number of times for England and he can play.

"But I think if he stays clear of injury we'll see the best of him from Christmas onwards."

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